Tag: human trafficking

In-district meetings with Senators’ Offices

Friends of the International Justice Mission attended in-district meetings on August 17th, with representatives from both Senator Warner’s and Senator Webb’s offices. We went with the purpose of seeking the support from both Senators for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), S.1301, and to encourage the Senators to facilitate the passage by the full Senate as quickly as possible. This landmark, bi-partisan legislation is set to expire by the end of September.

Our first visit was with Ms. Patrice Lewis, Outreach Representative for Senator Warner, followed by a later meeting with Ms. Louise Fontaine Ware, State Director for Senator Webb.  Both women were very attentive as we explained first, the magnitude of the sex trafficking issue not only worldwide, but in the United States, as well as here in our own state of Virginia. We then went on to discuss the importance of TVPRA in that it reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, originally passed in 2000. Certain amendments to the original Act were also highlighted. The Act would mandate greater collaboration in anti-trafficking strategy by the State Department regional bureaus and the overseas U.S. Embassies. “Child Protection Compacts” would be authorized for eligible countries so that they would receive additional U.S. assistance to end child trafficking. The Act would also offer increased protection for trafficking victims here in the United States. Additional points that were discussed were one, why U.S.  tax dollars should be allocated in the fight against modern-day slavery and  two, the importance of the Trafficking in Persons Office (TIP).

We ended our meetings encouraging each of the Senators to become a co-sponsor of the TVPRA.  Both offices expressed a genuine concern regarding the issue of sex trafficking, and that they would do what they could to support TVPRA.  – Tina Nyczepir

News from the Nefarious Screening

“God is highlighting the injustice of human trafficking in a pronounced way. I really believe that God is orchestrating a global awareness movement to draw people’s attention to this issue.  And one of the main reasons is so that we have begun to ask the question, “Why is this happening?””  Benjamin Nolot-President and Founder, Exodus Cry.

On July 24th, the Richmond Justice Initiative collaborated with Exodus Cry to present Nefarious at the Byrd Theater in Richmond. The evening included the movie screening and a local survivor’s story as well as commentary from Aaron of Exodus Cry and Sara Pomeroy, founder of the Richmond Justice Initiative.

The movie was shot in 19 different countries and 4 continents around the world and unveils the dark world of sex slavery in 30 different cities. Nefarious peers into the realm of where slaves are sold, where they work, and where they are held against their will.  Such evil happens not only in underdeveloped nations, but in prosperous ones as well.  This film presented viewers with first-hand interviews with real victims and traffickers while providing expert analysis from international humanitarian leaders.

The Byrd Theater was filled with hundreds of us who have been drawn by God asking “why?”  Our hearts were broken when Holly told us of her abduction.  Our minds were saturated with information and statistics from the film.  Our souls were lifted when survivors found restoration and yes, even joy, when they encountered the living God.

Before and after the film, we were photographed holding a bold statement in our hands:

Now, our question is “What can we do to end slavery?” One answer is to seek God’s direction in prayer.  I pray that God will send forth His Spirit to wake and rouse our allies and intercessors every day, rising up the full canopy of prayer and intercession to end slavery.

Another answer is to give generously, no.…. give until it hurts! – Ellen Andrusia



Mexican President Calderon Puts His Foot Down

Mexico has put its foot down on the horrific human trafficking within its borders.  As a part of Mexico’s AMBER Alert program, a program aimed at finding missing children, authorities in Ciudad Juarez over the weekend arrested over 1,000 people involved in human trafficking.  20 female minors were given their freedom.

Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, is a figure to applaud when it comes to the fight against human trafficking.   Earlier in July, he approved changes to the constitution that require the imprisonment of those accused of human trafficking during trials and guarantees the anonymity for the victims who turn the scoundrels in.  He also is waiting for Congress to approve a nationwide human trafficking law that would reform and streamline the process for handling human trafficking perpetrators.

To read more, click here.

Fernandez de Kirchner Takes a Stand Against Sex Ads

Earlier this month, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner passed a law banning classified ads offering sex in Argentine newspapers.  Many of these ads are not consenting adults, but rather trafficked women and girls being sold for sex.

Kirchner scolded the media for their “double morals and hypocrisy,” saying that “newspapers can’t print headlines demanding that we fight human trafficking, while their back pages present ads that humiliate women.”

Perhaps those within the Beltway can learn from Kirchner’s example and start tackling this problem in American newspapers and websites.

To read more, read here or here.


FACE Wraps Up for the Year

Monday, June 13, 2011 was the last Falcons Against Child Exploitation (FACE) monthly meeting at Fairfield Middle School for the school year. A human trafficking survivor was courageous enough to share her testimony with the students and several parents, which allowed the audience to further comprehend the depth of human trafficking and the consequences it has on victims from one perspective.

Overall, FACE has proven to be one of RJI’s most unique programs. It has given today’s youth a chance to educate themselves about modern slavery or human trafficking, and thus, inspire a generation to become abolitionists themselves. As many of you may know, the most targeted age group for traffickers to exploit is from 11 to 14. Therefore, implementing programs like FACE throughout middle schools, which students encompass the targeted age, is increasingly crucial.

I was blessed to be a leader in the FACE program this past school year. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with children and introduce dynamic learning tools to reach them such as inviting various speakers and showing constructive videos. In turn, the youth work equally as hard to spread their lessons about human trafficking to their schools and homes and brainstorm ideas on how to become even more involved this summer. We hope that the program empowers the children to believe that people can make a difference at any age. We are very proud of the kids involved this past semester and we look forward to expanding the program not only within the school, but to other schools as well.

-Kourtney H.

Budget Cuts to TIP Report

The State Department issues a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report annually.  This report ranks countries according to their anti-trafficking efforts and urges other countries to improve on their efforts.  For example, the Philippines, a country where labor and sex trafficking are common, enhanced its efforts when faced with a possible demotion in the ranks on the TIP Report and possible loss of U.S. foreign assistance.

Such is only one example of how the TIP Report has encourages the leaders of countries around the world to open their eyes to human trafficking and put an end to the free reign traffickers have within their borders.  So why then was the TIP Office’s budget cut by Congress for this upcoming fiscal year?  With the success thus far, should there not be more money allocated toward fighting global trafficking?

To find out more, read International Justice Mission’s vice president for government relations Holly Burkhalter’s report.


Human Trafficking Central Virginia Working Group meets with FBI, Police, and Homeland Security

On May 6th, 2011, the Human Trafficking of Central Virginia Working Group met with the FBI, police, and Homeland Security at the Richmond FBI field office.  Main speakers included Stuart Petro from the State Crime Commission, Erin Kulpa from the Attorney General’s Office, Peggy Roberts from Homeland Security, and Brian Hood, a civil rights investigator.

Stuart Petro reported the results of his research on the human trafficking issue in Virginia.

Erin Kulpa conducted a thorough analysis of current Virginia anti-trafficking laws, including § 18.2- 47(B) Abduction for Forced Labor, § 18.2-59 Extortion, § 18.2-356 Receiving money for procuring person, § 18.2-48 Abduction, § 18.2-346(B) Solicitation of prostitution, § 18.2-347 Keeping, residing in or frequenting a bawdy place (brothel), § 18.2-348 Aiding prostitution, § 18.2-349 Using vehicles to promote prostitution, § 18.2-355 Taking person for prostitution , or consenting thereto, § 18.2-356 Receiving money for procuring person, § 18.2-357 Receiving money from earnings of prostitute, § 18.2-374.1 Production of child pornography, and others.  Ms. Kulpa reminded those in attendance that while none of these laws use the words “human trafficking,” they are all useful tools in arresting and prosecuting human traffickers.

Peggy Roberts spoke about human trafficking from an illegal immigration vantage point.  She explained the differences between the S, T, and U visas, which could be used to help victims of trafficking.  She also shared a couple personal stories regarding forced labor that she has seen while on the job.

Brian Hood covered many court cases that have helped define the issue of human trafficking, some of which he had worked on.  Some of the cases included: U.S. v. Sabhanin, U.S. v. Farrell, U.S. v. Ubeozor, U.S. v. Afolabi, and a RICO case U.S. v. Askarkhodjaev.

The meeting was closed by the FBI and plans are in the works for the next Working Group meeting.


Nigerian Baby Factory Raided

On June 1st, 2011, police in Nigeria freed 32 teen girls from the dark depths of human trafficking.  Each girl was pregnant, as they were enslaved as baby making machines in this horrific “baby factory.”

Thanks to a tip, police raided the clinic in Aba, known as The Cross Foundation.  The tip had informed the police that the owner was keeping pregnant girls and forcing them to sell their babies.  Some of the girls, ages 15 to 17, reported that they were forced to sell their babies for $190.  These babies fell victim to the region’s sex trade and human trafficking markets.  Some allegedly were even sold for tribal rituals.

The owner could face up to 14 years in prison for selling the babies of these girls.  The owner denies the charges, stating that the clinic only cared for girls who had unwanted pregnancies.

The women are now safely at the regional headquarters of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, an anti-trafficking organization.


Read more about it at NYDailyNews.com

Virginia Coalition against Human Trafficking meeting at IJM

On May 10th, 2011, anti-human trafficking groups from across the state of Virginia congregated at the headquarters of the International Justice Mission in Washington D.C. under the unified title of the Virginia Coalition against Human Trafficking. Representatives from the American Center for Law and Justice, Courtney’s House, the FBI, Grace Community Church, the Grey Haven Project, Liberty University, the Attorney General’s Office, the Polaris Project, Shared Hope International, the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative, and the Organization to End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT-USA) were all in attendance. For many, the presence of members from so many organizations together in a single room at one time was somewhat surreal. It presented a rare opportunity for people to put names to faces, share ideas in person, and ultimately gear up for the upcoming legislative session.

When the meeting was officially called to order, representatives from the International Justice Mission provided the group with a federal overview of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) about to be pushed through Congress again. Afterwards, representatives from the Polaris Project gave a recap on the most recent state legislative session as well as ways for the group to combine forces and improve their methods for the next legislative session.

Those in attendance also had the opportunity to hear from a representative from the Attorney General’s Office who suggested future legislative goals for the group and how to best pursue such goals. Before closing, the meeting further consisted of a presentation of the emerging trends in the world of human trafficking. Those present were given a bird’s eye view of the past, present, and possible future of human trafficking legislation in the state of Virginia.

By the end of the meeting, relationships had been formed, contact information had been swapped, and new ideas birthed in many minds. Most, if not all, of those present that day are now anxiously working towards their legislative goals with the reassuring knowledge that their support system just got a whole lot stronger. Meanwhile, with such a successful meeting behind them, the members of the Virginia Coalition against Human Trafficking are now eagerly planning the next meeting where the group can once again be reunited.

Human Trafficking Bill Signing Ceremony: A Momentous Day!

Governor of Virginia Robert F. McDonnell declared, “Unfortunately, the subjugation of human beings who are forced against their will into labor or worse, into the sex trade, is not something relegated to the history books or to underdeveloped third-world counties,” at the Human Trafficking Bill Signing Ceremony located at Washington Dulles International Airport, a common entrance point that traffickers use to transport victims into the United States. On Tuesday May 31st, 2011, Governor McDonnell initiated an aggressive campaign against human trafficking in Virginia by signing three landmark pieces of legislation, House Bills 1898 and 2190 as well as Senate Bill 1453, which work to strengthen comprehensive laws and close loopholes. For example, HB 1898 acts to amend existing code statutes and significantly stiffen penalties for those who abduct adults for the purposes of prostitution. HB 2190 creates a plan to coordinate effective response for victims of human trafficking to ensure the delivery of social services and resources they need and deserve in order to begin the recovery process.  SB 1453 authorizes the Department of Criminal Justice Services working along with the Attorney General Office to advise and train law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of traffickers. RJI was present at the event along with the many delegates, law enforcement officials, journalists, new station crews, and various non-governmental organizations. All of us agree with Sara, RJI Director and Founder, when she stated, “We are very grateful to Governor McDonnell and the members of the General Assembly who, along with the many grassroots organizations in Virginia, have taken an active leadership role on this issue. Together, with the proper awareness and action, we can fight to end modern-day slavery in our lifetime. Today is significant in many ways because it is sending a message to traffickers and those who enslave others that Virginia is open for honest, legal businesses, but closed for slavery.” As RJI and partners are becoming closer and closer to abolishing modern day human slavery, the more and more human traffickers acknowledge the concrete reality that Virginians and America as a whole will no longer tolerate such malicious violations against human rights.

To learn more, please visit https://www.wtvr.com/.

To see more photos from the event, click here.

-Tran, RJI Administrative Volunteer